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Backpacking: A Different Way of Camping
What is camping? To most people, it is perceived as a time to pack up the car,
drive to local camp grounds, and spend the weekend in the great outdoors. It is
a time to frolic with family and friends around a campfire, singing songs,
playing games, and roasting marshmallows while listening to ghost stories that
can only be heard while camping. However, to the avid backpacker, camping takes
on a different perspective. While experiencing the great outdoors is very
similar to car camping, backpacking is very different in many respects.
Preparation for backpacking and car camping and the locales where one can set up
camp are very different. In either case, experiencing the great outdoors and
its natural beauty cannot be surpassed. With car camping the only real
limitation is one’s vehicle. A person is limited to the vehicle’s capacity to
carry or tow. For example, a camper will bring a stove, a twelve man tent, two
coolers of meat and potatoes, five gallons of water, and maybe tow a camper. On
the other hand, when backpacking, the circumstances are very different. One is
limited to his or her own capabilities: the amount of weight that can be
carried, endurance levels, just to name a few. Provisions must be carefully
measured. If overloaded, it can affect performance while hiking to one’s
destination, but if not enough provisions are carried it, will impact how long
one can last out in the wilderness. The equipment must be minute in size and
weight. Special lightweight stoves, tents, sleeping bags, and clothes must be
used when backpacking. The average weight of a full backpack is about thirty-
five pounds. A camper is completely dependent on what is in his or her backpack
to survive in nature. Reaching one’s final destination for car camping and
backpacking are also very different. To get to the campsite while car camping,
one follows a road map to the park, drives to the ranger station, picks up a
pass, and pulls in to the campsite. Depending on the size of the park, there
are usually fifty to one hundred campsites filled with weekend warriors. While
backpacking, reaching the campsite is a greater task. First, the backpacker
enters the park, gets a pass from the ranger station, and drives to the
trailhead. At the trailhead one loads his or her gear in the backpack and
firmly attaches it to their waist and back. Finally, the backpackers hikes two
to twelve miles to reach their destination, following a topographical map and
utilizing a compass. If one is fortunate, there will be someone camping at the
same site. Backpacking is usually done by oneself or in a group. Going to the
restroom is also very different in both cases. For one, there are no portable
restrooms while backpacking. A shovel and toilet paper are a backpacker’s only
means. One picks a spot, digs a hole, and squats. It is a very peaceful
experience with the birds chirping, the wind blowing, and trees swaying. While
car camping, there is usually a communal restroom that almost always smells of
disinfectants or deodorants. Car camping and backpacking are two forms of
camping that differ from each other in the respect that backpacking is a more
independent form of camping. If one feels like escaping the city just for a few
days, one can hop into a car and drive to a campground. It is relatively easy
to prepare for car camping, but backpacking is much more rigorous and requires
much planning. Though more limiting in what one can carry, backpacking allows a
person to see the outdoors in a way that car camping cannot. The most beautiful
sights are seen while backpacking, and this is because a car can only take one
so far. Most backpackers experience something that most car campers will never
see: the beauty of nature untouched by common man. Regardless of the mode of
exploring the great outdoors, an exciting adventure awaits.
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